Articles

I’ve been writing articles, essays, and introductions for long enough to have a bibliography several pages long. Here are a few recent pieces published in magazines, newspapers, anthologies and exhibition catalogues.

Anthologies & Catalogues

“The Presentation of Self in Emily Carr’s Writings”
I wrote this essay with Shirley Bear for the exhibition Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon organized by the National Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2006. It is based on a performance piece Shirley and I created together called Dear Emily / Dear Sophie about Salish basket maker Sophie Frank and her long time friend Emily Carr using correspondence between the two women we discovered in the archives in Victoria. We presented it at the VAG when the redesigned Carr galleries were opened in 1996. The piece was billed as “a contemporary dialogue about art, appropriation and friendship”. It was later performed and the Royal B.C. Museum in Victoria, and Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver.

Download a PDF version (188Kb) of “The Presentation of Self in Emily Carr’s Writings”.

In Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon. Curators, Charles C. Hill, et al. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 2006.

“Both Sides Now: Designing White Men and the Other Side of History”
For several years I worked on the issue of Traditional Knowledge with Greg Young-Ing who was a founding co-chair of the Creator’s Right’s Alliance in 2002 along with Michel Beauchemin and me (representing respectively Indigenous Peoples, Quebec and Canada). Greg was an editor of the second volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s anthology called Response, Responsibility, and Renewal — Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey, and following a conversation we had in Toronto about the non-involvement of Canadians who are not directly implicated in the residential school tragedy (ie. the State, the churches, the victims, and the individual perpetrators of abuse who happened to get caught) he suggested I write something. The third volume looks at “Cultivating Canada — Reconciliation through the lens of Cultural Diversity and also makes the point that reconciliation is everyone’s business.

Download a PDF version (139Kb) of “Both Sides Now: Designing White Men and the Other Side of History”.

In Response, Responsibility, and Renewal — Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Journey. Eds., Gregory Young-Ing, et al. Ottawa, Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2009.

“N’tow’wik’hegat (She who knows how to make images)”
In 2009 the Beaverbrook Gallery in Fredericton honoured visual artist and writer Shirley Bear with a retrospective exhibition called Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear. It was curated by Terry Graff who asked me to write this essay. I met Shirley when the PEN International Congress was held at Harbourfront in Toronto in 1989 and I was chair of the Writers in Prison of PEN Canada.  As we had access to the York Quay Gallery at Harbourfont along with other rooms, the WIP Committee invited Shirley to open Changers : A Spiritual Renaissance there. Changers was a touring exhibition of contemporary Indigenous women’s art organized by the National Indian Arts and Crafts Corporation and curated by Shurley. The artists were Rebecca Baird, Shirley Bear, Rebecca Belmore, Ruth Cuthand, Freda Diesing, Faye HeavyShield, Glenna Matoush, Shelley Niro, Alanis Obomsawin, Jane Ash Poitras, Joane Cardinal-Schubert.

Download a PDF version (897Kb) of “N’tow’wik’hegat (She who knows how to make images)”.

In Net wikuhpon ehit — Once there lived a woman, The Painting, Poetry and Politics of Shirley Bear, Curator, Terry Graff. Fredericton: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 2009.

“Carrots for Breakfast” was one of four essays curator Dennis Reid asked friends of painter Jack Chambers to write for the catalogue to Jack Chambers – Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life, an exhibition he mounted at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2011/12. Jack died of leukemia at the age of forty-seven in 1978.

Introducing the section “My Jack Chambers” Dennis wrote ‘Jack Chambers has exerted a remarkably broad influence through both his work and the example of his life To give some sense of this surprising scope of his impact, we have asked four people, each prominent in his or her field, to relate briefly a meaningful experience of the artist and/or his art. Each has responded with a profoundly personal account.’ The other three were Michael Ondaatje, John Scott and Eric Fischl.

I write about my work with Jack in the last ten years of his life, when, knowing he was dying, he nevertheless devoted a huge amount of energy to political work as national representative of the newly founded visual artists union. Canadian Artists’ Representation, CAR/FAC.

Download a PDF version (130Kb) of “Carrots for Breakfast”.

In Jack Chambers – Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life. Ed. Dennis Reid. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions & Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 2011.

“Launching the Global Village”
Renegade Bodies: Canadian Dance in the 1970s began as an anthology to celebrate the life and achievements of dancer Lawrence Adams following his early death 2003. I was contacted by Allana Lingren early on in the project and agreed to write about Lawrence’s fascination with new electronic technology. Most specifically, how he deployed video to record the work of Canadian choreographers and dancers, and how he and his partner Miriam Adams later started a weekly arts review Night Lights on community television that led to a proposal for a Pay-TV licence in 1981. The book evolved into a larger look at the decade of the seventies in dance. I got to know Lawrence and Miriam then,  artists from all disciplines were working together to establish a Canadian-made art scene. I appeared on Night Lights several times and worked with Lawrence in the Artists’ Alliance.

For more background, see the article on Lawrence and Miriam Adams in The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Download a PDF version (443Kb) of “Launching the Global Village”.

In Renegade Bodies: Canadian Dance in the 1970s. Eds., Allana Lingren and Kaija Pepper. Victoria: University of Victoria Press, 2012.

“The Public Intellectual”
I got to know Roy Miki in the Writers’ Union of Canada during the late 1980s when activists in the Union began to work issues of race. This eventually led to two national meetings of writer-of-colour convened by the Union. Roy led the committee that organized the second and larger one, Writing Thru Race in 1994. In June 2009 a conference to celebrate Roy’s extraordinary life as a writer, thinker, teacher and activist was held at the Firehall Theater in Vancouver. Tracing the Lines is a collection of the presentations made by a host of artists, writers and academics who participated. What I most remember of the occasion was a conversation with Phinder Dulai when I lamented the fact that the work done in the Union had not led to long term change. In response he noted that while a tiny minority of writers at the Writing Thru Race had published, in the intervening 20 years most of them had been. So progress has definitely been made.

Download a PDF version (468Kb) of “The Public Intellectual”.

In Tracing the Lines: Reflections on Contemporary Poetics and Cultural Politics in Honour of Roy Miki Eds., Maia Joseph et al. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2012.

Magazine & Newspaper Articles

“Mr. Wong’s story: A tale of sacrifice and generosity”. Toronto Star January 26, 2011.
This article was commissioned by the Star for a special section on Chinese New Year’s in 2011. It’s the story of Wong Dong Wong who came to Canada as a teenager in 1911 to work in his uncle’s restaurant in Vancouver. He was an orphan with no future in China but he made one for himself in Canada, migrating East to Toronto in 1917 to work as a domestic cook. He was hired by my grandfather in 1928.

Download a PDF version (72Kb) of this piece.

“Writing Mr. Wong”. This Magazine November/December, 2012.
This is the back story to Digging for China, the book on the life of Mr. Wong and why it has been possible for me to write it.  In the first instance, this is because of the help and openness of Chinese Canadians who made the search not just doable but successful beyond any expectation. The changes in Canadian society since Mr. Wong’s death in 1970 has meant that the close, familial association across race we had is no longer so unusual; it’s become a commonplace experience. Canadias have taken to practicing diversity at home and work, and slowly it’s become part of our identity. We’ve pride in our multicultural cities, and see multiculturalism as an ideal, a standard of tolerance and non-discrimination.

“Riel’s Prophecy – the new confidence of Aboriginal theatre”. The Walrus, April, 2008
“My people will sleep for one hundred years. When they awake, it will be the artists that give them back their spirit.” — Louis Riel.

I spent ten fabulous years on the board of directors of Native Earth Performing Arts, the country’s oldest professional Indigenous performing arts company. During that time I saw the creative process at work and close-up, and witnessed the evolution of many plays and performances from gleam in the eye to full scale production. This article chronicles the evolution of Indigenous theatre work in recent years, and profiles some of the extraordinary artists behind it.

“National Archive Blues”. Literary Review of Canada, January-February, 2011.
This piece grew out of several visits to the national archives in 2010. I was very troubled to discover archivists at their wits’ end and heading for the door, unable to assist researchers as they have in the past. New management has flat-lined the budgets for acquiring of private (non-governmental) papers, cut back on service, and embraced digitization as the one-stop answer to everything. The Canadian Association of University Teachers has since launched a campaign to save the archives.

“Labour Working with Art”. Fuse, Volume 34, Number 3; Summer 2011 (Originally published in 1987).
I wrote this piece to document the extensive work being done by a handful of activist visual artists who were busy making connections and common cause with unions, in many instances working with groups like the Steelworkers on cultural projects. They often were active organizing artists in their own communities, too. Some of them, notably Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge, and Mike Constable, are still around and much in evidence. Last year, editor Gina Badger put together an issue of Fuse, titled Performing Politics for 35 Years republishing a number of articles from the archives. Writers include Deborah Root (1996), bell hooks — interview by Ayanna Black (1990), Rachel Gorman (2007) and Greg Staats (2001). A great issue!

Here’s a PDF of the piece (1.5Mb).

Articles listed here downloadable in PDF format have been provided by the original publishers, whom I wish to thank. Where possible, links to the publishers are provided.

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